Curriculum Intent

The London Acorn School offers a purposeful, academically rich and coherent curriculum which leads to a deep subject knowledge in a broad range of subjects. Primarily shaped by the Waldorf Steiner pedagogy in the early years, it is inclusive of best practice from complimentary pedagogies with a blended approach in the Lower School years. Best practice from mainstream approaches, Forest school and Waldorf Steiner are blended to create a unique and broad curriculum with an eye to National Curriculum indications and benchmarks.

Intended to promote capability for the art of living, we provide a safe and secure environment conducive to learning and creativity, encouraging students to fulfil their potential in relation to their abilities, skills and interests in accordance with their spiritual, intellectual, emotional and physical development. Our curriculum is focused around the developmental stages of each year group and within the curriculum teachers ensure that the ages, abilities and needs of students are met, including those with an EHC Plan.

The intent of The London Acorn School curriculum is to:

  • cultivate and preserve the child’s innate sense of wonder and love of learning
  • develop the capacity for independent imaginative thinking and creative doing
  • offer a low-tech environment in the early years to promote the development of the finer senses and motor skills, connections in real time to people and places while gradually teaching digital skills and online safety as they progress
  • take full advantage of the nourishing and restorative power of Nature, accessible to us in Morden Hall Park, to foster a sense of place and connection to the Earth as well as to acquire skills in Natural Science and Geography
  • to provide an intimate, unhurried environment, where children can learn at a pace in keeping with their developmental needs
  • provide a secure and ordered environment with clear boundaries and consistent daily rhythms which encourage full participation and engagement with teachers, peers and learning
  • hold high academic expectations for the key skills of numeracy, literacy and the sciences in addition to cultural, musical, artistic skills (including design and technology)
  • support the child’s physical, emotional and spiritual development, equipping children for life
  • enable pupils to develop moral sensibility with an understanding of individual liberty, mutual respect and a tolerance of those with different beliefs.
  • provide an arena where the child’s individuality is accepted and respected, enabling them to become fully integrated members of the community and broader society with a clear and strong sense of their strengths and areas for development

Curriculum Overviews

Subjects

Art lessons begin in the Lower School with wet-on-wet watercolour painting, exploring the inner qualities of colour: what feelings does a colour generate?

In Class 1, the aim of these painting lessons is not to copy external objects or make illustrations but to have a colour experience, becoming acquainted with the ‘personalities’ of primary colours and the nuances of how they interact. Themes are derived from Main Lesson content. In Class 2, children develop sensitivity for balance and harmony in colour and form. By Classes 3 and 4, children are becoming more proficient in creating form out of wet-on-wet painting, and begin to explore other mediums, such as pastels, and are actively encouraged to experiment with ideas in order to develop their own intentions. In Class 5, children take more creative risks when exploring and responding to ideas, information and resources, using a range of mediums.

Form Drawing is another aspect of Art, which begins in Class 1 with exploring straight lines and curves as a precursor to letter writing. These forms are experienced physically through movement first and then brought to rest on paper. In Class 2, Form Drawing is inherently linked to cursive handwriting, and by Class 5, Form Drawing naturally introduces complex Geometry. Form Drawing allows the child to feel the balance, proportion, symmetry and integration of different forms and the dynamic movement they embody.

Throughout the Lower School, children illustrate their Main Lesson books with pencils and crayons, an activity which unites the dynamic of Form Drawing with the mood and feeling expressed by the colours. In this way, the children bring their powers of imagination to what they have perceived with their senses.

Crafts, including handwork, beeswax modelling and sculpting, are aimed at training manual skills. All children learn to knit, crochet, sew, build and use basic handicraft tools and work with a range of materials. The children produce useful articles such as recorder cases, potholders, shopping nets, knitting needles, peg boards, boxes and so on. This schooling of fine motor skills and co-ordination combined with the artistic and practical element provides a sound basis for the subsequent basis of practical intelligence.

From finger knitting at the beginning of Class 1, to making simple knitted toys in Class 2, to learning to crochet, spin and weave in Class 3, to cross-stitch, knot-work and embroidery in Class 4, to knitting in the round to create socks and gloves in Class 5, children learn practical skills and the art of perseverance, while enjoying a “breathing out” space from academic work.

Drama is taught cross-curricular, particularly within Main Lesson, with a tradition of Class Plays taking place each year. In Class 1, plays are generally choral, with each child having a go at each part before the final performance. By Class 5, plays are lengthier with more complex characters and more involvement in stage craft. Drama is often used as a recall tool, particularly in the younger years, to enable children to connect with stories and ideas tangibly and emotionally. Distinct Drama lessons begin with improvisation and team building games, playing different characters and emotions, and developing confidence and clarity of speech through oracy skills, evident in the children’s weekly Birthday Verses. As the children progress through the years, Drama offers them skills to develop self-confidence and communication, as well as being imaginative and having fun.

English is taught both through Main Lesson, which covers creative writing, reading and different genres linked to the Main Lesson theme, and distinctive skills lessons, which cover phonics, spellings, grammar and comprehension. The English skills lessons compliment Main Lesson written work and vice-versa, offering a balanced, creative and academic approach towards literacy. In Class 1, the alphabet is brought through fairy tale stories and pictures, developing a connection to the movement, direction and quality of letter writing. Phonics is introduced at the same time, which begins the formal learning of reading and writing. In Class 2, children learn cursive handwriting, complete the extended code of phonics, and derive creative writing from the legends and fables of the Main Lesson curriculum. By Classes 3 and 4, children’s grammar knowledge and language skills expand as they write for a range of different purposes: factual accounts, instructions, narratives, letters and diaries. Children are now reading sustained texts for pleasure independently and aloud in class. By Class 5, children should be familiar with a range of figurative language techniques, grammar rules, planning and editing skills, and reading across genres. Weekly spelling tests take place for all classes.

Foreign language lessons are as important as those focusing on the mother tongue. From Class 1 onwards the children learn foreign languages by the direct method of listening and speaking. The children are immersed in these languages by means of poems, stories and dialogue, all learned by heart and enacted in context. Through foreign languages they experience a different way of describing things, a different way of looking at things, a different way of approaching the world.

During the first three years the children acquire orally an extensive vocabulary of everyday things and situations and a practical usage of most of the main grammatical structures of the language. In succeeding years, the children will draw on this reservoir of oral language and experience as they begin to read and write in the foreign language.

During the first three years at school, the children are led gently through movement to an experience of their own bodily orientation and mobility within their surrounding space. Traditional movement and ring games are learnt and practised, which develop skills and
co-ordination as well as having a strong social component. In Class 1, there is emphasis on enjoying fitness and working as a team as they develop body geography, body co-ordination and rhythm. In Class 2, movement focuses on rhythmic work, crossing midlines and skipping, while in games, tactics are introduced to develop independent and team performances. By Class 3, communication, self-control and developing strategy come into play through games involving running, passing, aiming and balancing. In Class 4, there is an increased focus on running and athletics, developing skill and technique. By Class 5, games is intrinsically liked to Main Lesson, in which children study the Greek Olympics and begin to play sport more competitively.

Whole school swimming lessons take place nearby with outside instructors.

Humanities, including History, RE and Geography, is taught through the Main Lesson curriculum as well as in distinctive Humanities lessons. The distinctive lessons are taught across year groups linking to termly school trips, such as visiting local religious places of worship, historical sites in London, and exploring the local geography of the Wandle River that courses through Morden Hall Park.

While The London Acorn School prides itself on being a low-technology school, in Class 5, ICT is introduced to prepare children for the transition to secondary schools. At the local library, children learn how to be computer literate, using a wide range of tools, such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint, as well as learning about online safety. ICT skills can then be used to compliment other areas of the curriculum through research, data analysis and presentations.

Maths is taught both through Main Lesson, which covers skills practically, offering an in depth experience of a new concept, and distinctive skills lessons, which follow the age-related PUMA National Curriculum Map. The Maths skills lessons compliment Main Lesson discoveries into mathematics and vice-versa, offering an engaging, thorough and and academic approach towards numeracy.

In Class 1, children formally begin number work, with emphasis on the archetypal character of numbers, e.g. one means unity, two duality, and so on. Then come the four basic operations and their different qualities. From Class 1 onwards, mental arithmetic is a daily part of the Main Lesson morning rhythm, supported by rhymes, recitation, skipping, movement, and quick-fire practice. By Class 2, there is a shift of emphasis from manual operation to mental computation and problem solving. In Class 3, there is a Main Lesson focus on measurement, which offers a range of practical applications of maths through exploring time, space, weight, liquid, money and so forth. Class 4 breaks number down into fractions, decimals and percentages, and explores shape and geometry. By Class 5, children will have covered all areas of the KS2 National Curriculum for Maths.

Music begins in Class 1 with the pentatonic scale, which allows children to experience dream-like tones. The music they play with their wooden flutes is initially related to call and response songs that they have learnt. This can perhaps be compared with the way they learn to write, by beginning with what they already know by heart. There is an emphasis on active listening through singing, often accompanied by
movement and gesture in response to melody. Through Class 2 the children expand their range of tunes, and individuals take the step to small solos parts within the context of the class as a choir. In Class 3 the transition is made to the diatonic scale, when the children are introduced to musical notation. In singing, rounds are introduced to allow children the challenge of holding their own within a group. By Class 4, children have developed their musical notation skills, including musical composition, to be able to play the full range of the descant recorder. Part singing and part recorder-playing are introduced. In Class 5, children are able to play a range of instruments and parts, often culminating in performances.

PSHE skills are woven throughout the school’s broad curriculum and evident in the school’s ethos and culture, too. Children cultivate a reverence for nature, care for the environment, respect for others, and interest in the world. In distinct PSHE lessons, children take part in discussions, role play and complete written work on topics such as exploring feelings, being different, friendships, keeping healthy and the importance of money. Having a safe space in which to voice opinions, actively listen, question and debate allows children to develop into open-minded individuals.

In Class 1, Science lessons begin with exploring the natural world around them. The world of seeds, for example, is a practical route into Science, developing children’s observation and identification skills. Children learn to describe, to question, to carry out basic experiments, and to gather data. Furthermore, simple project work is introduced, such as planning desert island survival kits. In Class 2, children learn to set up simple practical enquiries, making systematic and careful observations, taking measurements and using a range of scientific equipment. Investigating properties of rocks, soil and organic matter, and learning about the function of plants in the world around us, are some of the areas of discovery. By Class 3 and 4, children are exploring Earth and Space and states of matter respectively, making predictions, conducting fair tests, and recording results using scientific diagrams and labels. In Class 5, Science lends itself to the Steiner Waldorf Main Lesson Curriculum of Botany, as well as introducing aspects of Physics and Chemistry.

In Woodland Craft, the children get to know and feel connected with their immediate natural surroundings within Morden Hall Park through knowledge and practical skills on the one hand, and through creativity, storytelling and free play on the other. At The London Acorn School, time spent in nature not only leads to a responsible relationship between human beings and the environment, but also creates a sense of wonder at the natural world. As the children progress through the school, their increasing understanding of the local environment is linked to a widening range of skills, such as building a hibernaculum, advanced den-making, and developing fire, camp craft and survival skills.

Woodwork is aimed at training manual skills. All children learn to use a range of tools with varying degrees of assistance. In Class 1, children create products for a use and purpose, such as knitting needles, staffs, robots, dice towers. They learn to design, implement and evaluate their work. In Class 2, children plan and design, and then assemble, join and combine materials and components in a variety of ways to make functional products, such as skip counting boards for their Maths lessons, ball bearing mazes, bagatelle games and classroom equipment boxes. By Class 3, children are proficient using a variety of woodwork tools and learn how to use more advance equipment to make projects ranging from bird boxes to money boxes, moving vehicles to sundials and weaving looms. Class 4 learn how to construct puppets and make wooden animals and Viking boat toys, producing step-by-step plans. In Class 5, children have the opportunity to work together as a team to create large-scale products, such as play sets for drama performances.

Throughout the Lower School, content for Woodwork lessons is often derived from Main Lesson themes.

Assessment at The London Acorn School

At The London Acorn School we believe in developing creative thinkers and curious learners. Assessment is very much part of the cycle of learning at our school and not the ‘end’ of a journey.
In the Kindergarten years the teachers are guided by the EYFS criteria for assessment and this information is shared with our parents at parents evenings and in the reporting cycle.
In our Lower School classes we use the PUMA and PIRA Maths and Literacy termly assessments. All of our teachers are skilled at working with children individually to plan their next steps in learning. Emphasis is given to providing written and verbal feedback regularly to the children and this is a part of the daily classroom experience. Small class sizes and a nurturing atmosphere ensure that assessment in this context really helps children to progress academically.
The curriculum breadth ensures that children experience time and space within a school day to discover a talent, explore, and learn through nurture not pressure.

Assessments administered at The London Acorn School:

  • SWRT – this is a single word reading test

The pupils read a list of words. This is useful at the beginning of an academic year and at the end of the year, so that value added can be observed. All pupils at the school read the same list. This assessment is useful in terms of looking at the children’s abilities to decode words and can also be an analysis tool in terms of identifying where more work on phonics may need to be deployed, or booster literacy sessions offered. It also help us to pinpoint pupils who may need screening for dyslexia.

  • PUMA and PIRA Maths and Reading Comprehension assessment booklets

These are termly child friendly assessments. Easy to administer with progress tracked termly, these assessments provide the school with prior attainment data every year. They provide Reading comprehension and Maths ‘ages’ and also standardised scores. These assessments provide a diagnostic capability allowing teachers to focus on concepts and skills which the pupils need.

  • Spelling test

All children take the same test. This test is often taken at the beginning of an academic year and the end of an academic year.

  • Writing Assessment

The whole Lower School receives the same stimulus and completes a similar task based on age-related success criteria. This is assessed using the schools internally developed ‘Learning Steps’. While we cannot compare this with peers nationally at the same age, it does provide the teaching team the ability to see the progression in writing throughout the school.